Piedra de Plata -- Matured

by To'ak
Info Details
Country Ecuador   
Type Flavored   (modified)
Strain Nacional   (substantially)
Source Ecuador   (Manabí; Píedra de Plata)
Flavor Crossover   (massive)
Style New School      
REDUX REVIEW -- below are segments of TO'aK's Píedra de Plata -- Matured cocoa & chocolate, first reviewed in 2018, followed by updates in 2020. The rating & metrics (upper right) are a composite average.
Lest anyone think chocolate immature kids stuff, take heed...

After collecting HCP Heirloom Designation IX, what could the world’s most expensive chocolate perform for an encore? Something more elaborate of course.

Aging chocolate. A subject of anecdotes & theories but no empirical data.

Seizing on a piece written by the C-spot™ in 2011, To’ak puts it to the test. Not for a couple weeks or even a few months, but years....

It coincided with this site's own aging program which went up, literally, in flames hot enough to dry every tear that loss caused.

Thankfully theirs came to fruition.

To'ak ventures far outside the lab to come back deeper into it. The company enrolls university science departments for tantamount to a multi-phase clinical trial. No expense, distance or patience spared in the experiments.

In generations to come, those still chronicling such matters should note: as Methuselah to humans, so To’ak to chocolate.

Appearance   4.8 / 5
Color: blushed aubergine brown (a couple decidedly browner)
Surface: spotless front; swirled back
Temper: luminous; buffy the vampire slayer luminous
Snap: heavy knocks
Aroma   9.1 / 10
Spanish Elm
cured wood
cigar leaf
oxidizes melon
then candy brandy
clean Earth

Single Malt Islay Cask
as if a direct pour from the barrel itself
a dank peat bog once flooded with marine now-residual micro-organisms (plankton, algae)...
... logs over time into a wooded substrate before sprouting a candied flower

Cognac Cask
light & fine to the edge of celeste
mystical traces of maple(!)-oak, spice (vanilla-pepper) & seed (hemp + celery) -> coumarin

Andean Alder
Aged 3 Years
pizza dough & oregano (seriously)
wilder still -- pencil shavings
let it breathe awhile & it oxidizes beautifully -- fresh glade air over melon

Aged 5 years
Lead No. 2 Pencil with huge eraser head
culinary herbs cut by pepper points

Palo Santo
penetrating vapor rub... so Palo Santo... think cross twixt a cedar box x rosewood + turpentine, then coastal spearmint to top

Sauternes Cask
so subtle... the vape so enmeshed in the sound cocoa principle unlike others in the collection that hover above & around
a matrix of pear, peaches, vanilla &, of course, golden raisin

Tequila Cask
phantom of the chocolate
beyond subtle.... subliminal; tequila invisible -- instead pepino, cocoa & horsetail (the herb more than the animal) stand in for it

Bourbon Cask
quiet reserve... library-level hush... small savory center (think oak whispering as allspice & musty dried fruit hook up)

Kampot Pepper
the butt end of a dog
Mouthfeel   12 / 15
Texture: Arriba-types always slow off the block & rubbery
Melt: round
Flavor   43.2 / 50
Spanish Elm
78% cacáo-content; 2016 Vintage (May-June Late Rain Season); Aged 1 Year

dried lucuma syrup -> sweet acacia gum -> breadfruit to red banana -> latent blackberry emerges late into distilled essence of it, followed-on by a sharp but supple wood tannin (outstanding sequential transfer) -> eucalyptus (both vapor & bark) -> evanescent indica

A short-sided 4-day ferment prevents the Spanish elm frame from renting & ripping the flavor chamber apart which 1 year of aging could only ameliorate nonetheless to a degree. As is, a forceful yet subtle exposition.

Single Malt Islay Cask
73% cacáo-content; 2015 Vintage (February-March Mid Rain Season); Aged 2 Years

huge purple / black fruit at the front doused in a scotch splash -> wood & peat ever-rising as chocolate recedes into the backdrop canvas -> turns heavily oaken in a cavernous way -> the complex compresses dense & varied (apricot honey-caramel / peat-liquor / smoked heather & seaweed) -> cocoa malt -> clean, clear yet thin stringent grip -> vaporous entrails

Below average climate conditions continued on into 2015 but above 2014 levels (see below) resulting in a sweeter vintage. Yet To'ak calibrates this at a sweeter level still -- 73%.

A Laphroaig cask, at the deep end of peat. This 'peat monster' imposes & then some. Positively / absolutely identifiable from the jump. Chocolate subtantially sublimated in the process & secondary to it. Higher cacáo-content &/or shorter curing would balance the components. Notwithstanding, as is, the profile more than hangs together, it harmonizes throughout so by the aft-entrails it drifts toward a deep tonic mead.

Cognac Cask
81% cacáo-content; 2014 Vintage (March-April Prime Rain Season); Aged 3 Years

softly distills vine fruit -> bores into caramelized oak, then deeper into subtle bitter almond -> absinthe & coumarin swirling about that vanilla-oak -> dried dense empress plum extract -> cognac (naturally) -> silken Bailey's Irish Cream® finish

2014 Vintage recorded less sun & rain producing abundant acids & tannins. To'ak compensated by extending the fermentation (6 days), shortening the conche (12 hours) with a moderate roast in between.

50+ year old oak cask from the Limousin forest in south-central France, most recently decanting eua-de-vie.

Quecus patraea (Limousin) is hard but looser grained than the more common America oak. Its porous nature allows for more tannins to interact, thus imparts add’l flavors, including its own cocoa analogues.

Very successful production. Influence of the cognac identifiable, even leading, & still restrained. Near perfect pitch in amplitude & magnitude.

Andean Alder
81% cacáo-content; 2014 Vintage (March-April Prime Rain Season); Aged 3 Years

super sweet cocoa / brown fruit brigade (chocolate / tamarind / raisin) -> smoked latex at rear palette -> locks into a mealy compound... part veg fiber / part animal muscle... call it 'jerk-vegemite' paté (extremely rare, nothing like it in all of chocodom) -> fleeting cream-on-plantain alters with flickering oregano from the Aroma -> shutters up an inner ring of dried wood so thin to form an astringent veneer

Singular &, despite the above descriptors, subdued. A conventional framework at the beginning & then end. In between however... anything but.

Andean Alder (Alnus acuminata), a wild tree growing at mid-elevation in the Andes Mountains. Tannically rich. This bar emphasizes the 'wild' expression (nearly wildlife). But so unexpectedly unwooden save for the final frame. The middle procession thoroughly disorients & divorces from chocolate-flavor sense altogether. If not for the textural tether, this bar's midsection would fail a blindfold test. What it lacks in the way of enticements it makes up for by avoiding blandishments.

For the person who thinks they've tried it all.

Same Aged 5 Years

tracks the Aroma (above) closely + a smoked herbal element in a testament that 2 years on this chocolate levels off & rounds the profile

Palo Santo
80.5% cacáo-content; 2015 Vintage; Aged 4 Years
Ever felt after inhaling essential oil of Palo Santo (the form most people encounter) like ingesting it? Well, here's the best way. Ahhh, in a carrier cocoa of 80.5%... the half-percent a phantom distillate of the sylvan spirit Palo Santo. And with plenty of overtones: spearmint leads the charge before sitting into mulling spices countering a welcome turpentine; the bar closes out almost as a Girl Scout™ mint-chocolate chip cookie doused in verbena. Fab unusual.

Sauternes Cask
78% cacáo-content; Aged 3 Years

sweet-on-sweet (white grape 'n cocoa-buttery chocolate) until VOG appears (Vanilla Oak Giant), the wood as if just sawn, followed by sisal works
bit quick but quite the dramatic progression / flourish

73% cacáo-content; 2015 Vintage; Aged 4 Years
liquor gossamer-lite & as much agave syrup as alcohol spirit
incredibly soft yet apparent; tremendously matched / paired to chocolate -- no border war here, basically Mexico (tequila) meets Ecuador (Nacional cacáo) circulating about acacia gum & mallow root into sapote

Bourbon Cask
76% cacáo-content; 2017 Vintage; Aged 2.5 Years
full-on barrel slide against its sides; chocolate evaporates in the cask in favor / flavor of the obvious vanilla / caramel + refined oak & mellow clarified alcohol, not to mention a flick or two of prune & instrinsic chocolate to the bourbon beyond the chocolate bar itself; fab stack

Kampot Pepper
80.5% cacáo-content; 2015 Vintage; Aged 4 Years
breaks black grape -> meanders into classic herbal-forest meadows of Nac'l limned in quartz -> latter stage pepper surge imparts sweet espresso -> eucalyptic after-math
Quality   17.9 / 20
The good folk at To’ak have really outdone themselves on this one because… well, they’ve only themselves to outdo, considering how this label set the standard for Bentley-like A-1 prime packaging & presentation in the craft chocolate space. Mast Bros. and Marou, elegant wallpaper notwithstanding, just Kleenex® by comparison. Yep, colored snot rags next to this polished Spanish elm box accoutered with tongs so nothing gets between your tongue & chocolate (well, almost nothing).

To’ak & Co. in this quartet transmutes cacáo into deeper chocolate heights. Generalized polygamous shape-shifters of flavor. Similar mash-ups in craft chocolate go back years now – starting with Soma’s Niagara ice-wines and Raaka’s barrel stash among others. Even before them, the pronounced leanings of sapodilla wood used for fermentation boxes on then-Cotton Tree / now-Moho chocolate shaped flavor outcomes dramatically.

None however go to such meticulous lengths as these (re: a loooonng time coming)


14 Manabí properties culled into post-harvest management by Servio Pachard. Then subjected to various aging protocols detailed in the accompanying booklet furnished with every package. Lots of good solid info.

The cribs notes: up to three-quarters or more of a whiskey’s flavor derives from aging. Depending on the cask, the tannins, lactones, sugars & other properties of wood interact with the bio-chemical compounds of the encased substance (in this case, chocolate).

Make no mistake: these compounds reinforce that cacáo, though potent, remains fragile. Very impressionable & malleable. Consequently, it bears the brunt of these materials exerted upon it, to lie at service to them. While overpowering would overstate the effect, the profiles herein express for the most part the extrinsic factors -- the woods used in aging. Less about chocolate per se, more about the maker's mark.

INGREDIENTS: cocoa mass, sugar, time

Reviewed February 21, 2018
Updated April 26, 2020


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